Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 07/19/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question, who is
Plus the struggle continues through moral Mondays in North Carolina.
And the powerful story of the girl in glass
But first the question that must be answered, what happened to Sandra
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris Perry.
And this morning we bring you a story that has more questions than answers,
the story of Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old Illinois native.
And a few years back, she was a student at Prairie View A&M University, a
school about 450 miles west of Houston. She attended the school on a ban
scholarship and was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. After graduating
in 2008, she had to return to Illinois, but then moved to Texas last week
to start a new job at her alma mater. And this is where this part of the
On Friday, July 10, Sandra was pulled over in Prairie View, Texas by a
trooper for failure to signal a lane change. During that traffic stop,
Sandra quote “became argumentative and uncooperative, according to a
statement released by state`s department of public safety officer also
called the DPS. This is where the story gets fuzzy. Because a video
recorded by a witness shows a woman lying face down on the ground with an
officer`s knees at her back. Though the video is unverified by NBC,
Sandra`s family attorney says that the woman being arrested in the video
is, indeed, Sandra Bland. And we`re about to show you that video which
captures the arrest but not the moments leading up to it. And I do want to
warn you, that if you haven`t seen it yet, some viewers may find this
content quite disturbing.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Sandra was subsequently taken into custody for assault on a
public servant. She was then booked in the Waller County jail and
arraigned over the weekend. Her bond was set at $5,000. On Monday Sandra
was found dead while in the custody of the local Waller County, Texas jail.
The reason, according to the autopsy, suicide by hanging.
This is what we don`t know. Why did a routine traffic stop escalate into
violence? Why was her bond set at $5,000? What exactly happened inside
that jail cell? Waller county jail did not return our multiple requests
for a comment, but according to a statement released Thursday, DPS
announced that the agency quote “identified violations of the department
violated procedures on traffic stops and the department`s courtesy policy.”
The employee involved has been assigned administrative duty. And on
Friday, the Waller County sheriff`s office requested that DPS assists in
investigating Sandra`s death. The Texas rangers and FBI are also
More than a week after that traffic stops, Sandra`s love ones are still
left with questions. More than 100 protesters marched in Texas Friday,
also calling for answers and wondering why Sandra Bland was driving toward
a new beginning only to end up alone in that jail cell in Waller County.
Joining me now are Cannon Lambert, attorney for the Bland family, and
Sharon Cooper, Sandra`s sister, to discuss the question that everyone is
asking. What is it that happened to Sandra Bland?
Thank you both for being here. What is it you think happened?
CANNON LAMBERT, BLAND FAMILY ATTORNEY: Thank you.
SHARON COOPER, SANDRA BLAND`S SISTER: Thank you.
LAMBERT: We don`t know. That`s the problem. We are really struggling to
get a grip on what it is that did happen, and that`s why we`re down in
Houston and that`s why we`re going about the efforts that we are engaged
and we`re trying to find that out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sharon, may I ask, did you know that your sister was in the
jail over the course of the weekend? Had you heard from her?
COOPER: Yes. We heard from her on Saturday, July 11th in the
midafternoon. She spoke with one of my older sisters and informed her that
she was indeed in jail and did inform us of the cost of her bail at that
time, which we were working on expeditiously to get to her.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Cannon, let me ask you about this, because, you know, I
know all of us are most angry, appalled that this young woman ends up dead
in this story. But part of what I feel like we skip over just is so there
was a routine traffic stop and then three days later she was found dead,
and I kept saying, can we pause on the three days later. Do you have a
sense of why I recognize that there was a weekend here, but is this a
standard practice that somebody would still be in jail three days after
being stopped for an illegal lane change?
LAMBERT: It`s pretty frustrating that for an illegal lane change, she kind
of went through the ordeal that she did on the scene. And then for her to
end up dead three days later, it just boggles I think many, many people`s
You know, I want to know why she was made to get out of the car. You know,
I will tell you, frankly, I have had occasion to see the dash cam. And
I`ve got some problems with the way that this went down. I`ve seen the
full dash cam, and I have real serious difficulties with the way that stop
was conducted. And I guess –
HARRIS-PERRY: So there is dash cam video and you`ve seen it. May I ask if
the family has had an opportunity to see it?
COOPER: We have not. As you can imagine, it has been an extremely
difficult week, continues to be a difficult time, especially given the
difference in state. So that is something that even just the small clips
that we have seen that is available for public consumption, that`s
difficult to watch. So we have not seen the full video. We left that to
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play for something that actually I`m not sure I
want to play for you, but I do need to get your response to this. This is
Sheriff Glen Smith at a press conference, and he`s talking about this idea
that Sandy committed suicide, that you all as a family simply won`t accept
it. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF GLEN SMITH, WALLER JAIL COUNTY, TEXAS: I have never dealt with a
suicide that didn`t have at least one family member or one close friend
that always had a conspiracy and was never satisfied with what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So can you respond to the sheriff in this?
COOPER: Absolutely, I would be happy to. I think in this particular case,
there are just several things that we simply don`t understand and we need
to understand them to get to a resolution. I think that it is OK to remain
curious in any situation that you encounter in life. And a situation of
this magnitude calls for that level of curiosity and excessive follow-up in
some of the questions that we do have.
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney –
LAMBERT: It`s not just this family that has questions. The groundswell of
support that this family has received both locally and nationally, I mean,
I know that they`re so grateful for it. But part of the reason that there
is this ground swell is there is a national concern about what`s been going
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney Lambert, may I ask this, are you able to
characterize in any way for us what that dash cam video shows?
LAMBERT: Well, it shows that she stopped. It shows that there is the
officer that goes out and makes contact with her and initially after
getting the license and goes back to his car and writes her up, it seems –
or at least he alleges that he wrote her a warning, and then after asking
her to get out of her car because he was, from my perspective, irritated
with the manner in which she was addressing him. He then opened her door
and was looking to force her out.
So, again, the real question is, why is it that he thought it was necessary
for her to even get out of the car when all he had to do was give her the
citation that he was going to give her, which was effectively a warning,
and send her on her way?
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Cannon Lambert and to Sharon Cooper in Houston,
Texas. I appreciate you joining us this morning.
LAMBERT: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before we go to our break, I do want to bring in my panel in
New York for just a moment. Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the
advance project, Matt Welch, editor in-chief of “Reason” magazine, Rashad
Robinson, executive director of Color Change and Cherrell Brown, community
So, I`m ask this from the table. Based on what you`ve heard here, what do
we think has happened to Sandy Bland?
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR OF THE ADVANCE PROJECT: Well, you know,
when you get stopped by the police for a traffic stop, you expect that what
will happen is you will get a ticket and be on your way. And here we just
heard the characterization of that video as, you know, maybe this was a
police officer who thought she was being mouthy, that she was the angry
black woman, right? And so, here we have a black woman who is being
dehumanized and treated criminally for just a traffic stop. We should not
be surprised, but we should say enough.
RASHAD ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLOR CHANGE: And it`s the way black
people seem to be put in their place over and over again by law
enforcement, the fact we don`t have accountability for law enforcement in
these situations, and that law enforcement over and over can do these types
of things without any type of retribution, without any accountability.
CHERRELL BROWN, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: What I found heartbreaking is the
hash tag that popped up. Now, you have – Sandra looks like someone who
could be an organizing space with me. I listen to her videos.
HARRIS-PERRY: Her last Facebook profile picture was just a blank sheet
that said, now legalize being black in America. So she is critically
engaged intellectually, personally, spiritually with the black lives matter
movement. Whatever she is doing in terms in organizing like she`s engaged
BROWN: She`s talking often about social media as tools of change and she
would want us to say her name. And the fact that so many organizers,
activists people, Black folks in America to sort of say if I die in police
custody, and it`s both powerful and heartbreaking for me to watch because
it reaffirms that no matter what your status, gender, where you went to
school, that you could be the next hash tag.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, something about I think maybe her moving back to
the town where she was an undergraduate and beginning work at her alma
mater - I mean, obviously, all of these – I`m sorry I called her Sandy
Brown a moment ago, I think mushing her and Michael Brown together in my
mind, in part because there is something (INAUDIBLE) heartbreaking, there
is something appalling about the idea that you get stopped for a traffic
violation, we expect that to happen. We don`t always follow every single
rule of driving at all times. We don`t expect them to open the door and
pull us out.
DIANIS: And the thing is that this moment, like people - black folks are
challenging the police. When you get stopped by the police, you have to
question, why are you stopping me and what are you going to do with me once
you stop me.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR IN-CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: You shouldn`t get pulled out
of a car for mouthing off to a cop. You shouldn`t. And especially for
that. And I think there is few phrases in the English language that are
less convincing than “hung herself in her jail cell.” Until we see a video
or something from that jail cell, we have a long history, including where I
grew up in Signal Hill, California, Long Beach California. Ron Sellers in
the early 80s hung himself in his jail cell. He did no such thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And let me tell you, if you look at the statistics of
black women who commit suicide, they are stunningly long. And if you look
at black woman committing suicide in a public space using hanging as a tool
suicide, the numbers are – they are vanishingly small. She would be one
of the only humans this has happened to as oppose to the numbers that we
look at when we look at people of color in police custody who end up harmed
In order to understand the story in part, though, we need to understand
that Texas County which it happened. And that part is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Waller County, Texas outside of Houston is a rural place
with just over 47,000 people spread out over 500 square miles. It`s fairly
diverse, 44 percent of the population is white, 30 percent Latino or
Hispanic and 26 percent black.
This is where Sandra Bland died earlier this week in the county jail. She
was arrested in Prairie View, a small college townhome to Prairie View A&M,
historically black college with more than 80 percent of the 8,000 of those
students are African-American.
And despite the county`s diversity, there has long been racial tension in
Waller County. And Prairie View A&M itself were Sandy Bland had attended
school and where her family says she was about to start a new job. Hasn`t
decided a frequent battle over the voting rights on its black students.
In 2004, the county`s white district attorney declared that the school
students were illegible to vote using their campus addresses and threaten
to prosecute them if they try. Two thousand students marched on the county
courthouse and protests. And the district attorney resigned. And the state
of Texas reaffirmed the student`s right to vote, state of Texas.
In 2008, more than a thousand Prairie View students marched seven miles in
the Waller County courthouse to protest the lack of early voting places
closer to campus in the March primary. And it was only in 2012, after
years of fighting, with students were able to secure a polling place on
campus for the first time.
Joining me now from Houston, Texas is Carmen Roe, criminal defense attorney
and legal analyst.
Carmen, can you tell me a little bit about Waller County`s reputation?
CARMEN ROE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I mean, Waller County has a
longstanding history of racial discrimination, and you mentioned some of
the history there. I mean, the best thing I can say about the community is
that there is an exclusively black cemetery and an exclusively white
cemetery that still exists in Waller County today.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the dead are segregated?
ROE: Absolutely. As much as the living.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s my understanding, in fact, that even around that
cemetery thing, not to push too much, but there was actually some concern
about the fact that the African-American cemetery was not being kept up
despite the fact everybody`s tax dollars was going into it.
ROE: That`s exactly right. And there was even a litigation that had to
occur because there was a white individual that attempted to be placed in
the black cemetery, and they actually had to have a lawsuit because they
didn`t want to have any mix in the cemeteries.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you a little bit – obviously there are lots of
questions in the cases. We will find out more detail, but we just heard
from the family`s attorney that the dash cam video shows that potentially
she was pulled out of the car. And I guess I`m wondering, you know, we
were just talking here at the table, is saying that she was argumentative
or that maybe she wasn`t differential enough, is that a legal reason
sufficient to pull a citizen out of the car or to arrest them?
ROE: Not at all. Being mouthy to a police officer, argumentative or even
disrespectful is not a criminal offense and it`s not a justification to
pull somebody out of their car. This was nothing more than a traffic stop
and it should have ended with a citation and letting Sandra go. There was
no reason to pull her out of the vehicle at that time.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just also want to point out that the local station there,
KAHOU, said the jail was cited for violations for minimum jail standards on
Thursday, including observation of inmates, saying that standard require
that inmates can be observe face to face at least once every hour around
the cloak and staff training of how to handle inmates who are mentally
disabled or suicidal. But we have the officials there saying that these
conditions could not have been related to Sandra Bland`s death.
Let me just say this. Even if she committed suicide, if she committed
suicide in their custody in the context of them not meeting their
standards, are they culpable for it?
ROE: I think that`s absolutely the case. I mean, at the end of the day,
we know right now that the officials have said policies and procedures were
not followed at the stop and that they weren`t followed at the jail. And
so, what we know is this was a preventable death. And that while she was
in their custody at the stop as well as in the jail, that they had an
obligation to ensure her safety by following those policies and procedures,
that make sure that every individual that comes in gets to leave.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Carmen Roe in Houston, Texas. I appreciate
having a little more background and focus on that.
So guys, again, now we have heard more from someone on the ground, does
that give any more insight to what happened here?
BROWN: You know, I grew up in rural North Carolina. I went to school in
Greensboro County, (INAUDIBLE) University. (INAUDIBLE) and there was a
history there of police misconduct. These places that have history of
police don`t happen in a vacuum. It is usually because there is a cultural
system in place that allows and reaffirms these things to happen. It
allows for disenfranchisement of black voters and voter suppression. It
allows for (INAUDIBLE) who were previously fire for racism to still hold a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I don`t want to go pass that. I want to pause and let
people know that story, that this man who was a sheriff. Sheriff is an
elected position, but when that he was the chief, he was fired in 2008
around allegations around racism and brutality. He claims that it`s just
politics, but it is worth pointing out that a person who was fired from
that job for that has been elected into another law enforcement position.
BROWN: Yes. And this is a part of the culture, a systemic problem. So
when we say black lives matter, it`s important that to know it was not just
police violence, but all the way in which anti-black state violence
impacts, suppresses, dehumanizing black lives.
WELCH: I want to throw about the context there statewide, you gave almost
a spit take on the state of Texas said this. Actually, the state of Texas
in the last five years or so has one of the leading states in criminal
justice reform. There is, on the state level, I mean, we already we`ve
seen the officer in this case when come out and discipline them. I am from
L.A. We don`t discipline officers until, like, three years later. So
they`ve already said that there`s been misconduct that took place in this
case. There had been in Dallas and other places they are leading on
exonerations on during DNA checks and these types of things.
Rick Perry identifies himself and I think accurately so as a criminal
justice report. So on the state level, I think there`s been important
work, and hopefully that work will now affect this case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So part of what I want to connect, though, is
exactly your point. So I think that`s right. I think there is some credit
that can be given to Texas around these issues. Part of what I would say
in the state of Texas was actually about the voting piece. So when the
state of Texas tells you that you have been voter suppressant, then you
have been voter suppressant. And that idea as you point out that like this
violence against white bodies is a criminal justice piece, but not
exclusively that, right? So that to look at for years and years, students
marching to try to be able to cast their vote, but then potentially a new
staff member on their campus dying in police custody, like these things are
not entirely disconnected from one another. We have more on Sandy Bland.
Still to come this morning, black lives matter protesters take on Martin
O`Malley and my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: The city of New York announced they will pay the family of
Eric Garner $5.9 million to settle their lawsuits claiming negligence and
recklessness of Garner`s death just more than one year ago. Garner, a 42-
year-old father and grandfather from Staten Island died after an NYPD
officer placed him in a chokehold during a confrontation over Garner`s
alleged for sales of untaxed cigarettes. His last words were captured on
video, I can`t breathe.
Three weeks later, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in
Ferguson, Missouri. And despite the fact that grand juries in both cases
chose not to indict the officers involved, many saw the incidents as
examples of racism and police brutality sparking a national movement under
the banner black lives matter. The movement has changed (INAUDIBLE)
American politics and activism, and yet some criticize it for not paying
enough attention when black women die at the hands of police while in
police custody, black women like Sandra Bland.
And so, Judith, you started in part talking through this about this idea of
what police officers see when they see a black woman driving. I mean, I
think they have the sense of a vulnerability of black male bodies, but
maybe less so about black women.
DIANIS: Right. And we know from – even from school age, right, and
school to prison pipeline work, the way that young girls all the way
through women are viewed are often as they perceived as unruly, as wild.
When we get older, I know I`ve had it, you know, calling me the angry black
woman. And so these perceptions, then, when they`re turned into actions
leads to unfortunate circumstances. And so – and too often we forget
because we think that the numbers of black women who are killed by police
are lower because we disregard it.
DIANIS: But really what`s happening is black women are dehumanized in the
same ways and sometimes sexualized also on top of that, and we forget that
HARRIS-PERRY: That question, then, of how we – even as we are insisting
that black lives matter, think about the different ways and different
formulations of black life, would a young black life, would an older black
life, would a urban black life, I mean, the fact that is that they are seen
in I think ways that are distinct and yet still create vulnerabilities?
ROBINSON: Absolutely, and getting folks to understand, right, moving the
conversation around black women, around queer folks, around trans folks to
the front of the conversation so it`s not sort of a backdrop to these
moments that we hear about Trayvon or Eric Garner or Michael Brown, but
that we are talking about sort of the full range of the criminal justice
impact on our community.
The Sandra Bland story and the attention that it`s getting, I hope is a
real signal for us to be able to start elevating these moments because when
we get policy change, when we win policy change, the policy change has to
be big enough and strong enough to ensure that all of us are protected,
that our full community is protected, and that`s just doesn`t serve certain
aspects of the community.
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess one of the things I continue to wonder is whether or
not this vulnerability to state violence can also open up, you know, look,
I am not about to do a Martin O`Malley, black lives, white lives,
everybody`s lives matter, but the vulnerability – the vulnerability of
black lives to state power should provide an anxiety for all of us about -
like I mean, part of why I want to talk to an attorney about can someone
just take you out of your car because you`re mouthing off, right, in most
circumstances that`s going to be read from black bodies differently. But
in any given moment, it means vulnerability for all people, if that makes
WELCH: Here`s a way of thinking about it, right? I edited a magazine
that`s been against the drug war as long as I`ve been alive. And it`s so -
we are always interested in talking about what arguments resonate with
people to change their mind. And we are finally winning that argument
after long last.
For a long time, one of the arguments that worked, it didn`t turn people
off, but actually worked is that there is a racially disproportionate
impact on arrests compared to what people do. Black people smoke pot the
same right as white people, yet they are incarcerated, arrested, shook
down, at rates, they are holy disproportion. So it`s actually an effective
way to get the attention of people who think to themselves, oh, maybe this
is sort of part of a system that is more racist or has disproportionate
effects. So it can be effective.
I would also suggest, just to get everybody mad at me here, that black
lives matter is great as a kind of testimony of individual worth in the
face of a system that for too long not valued those people, and the media
hasn`t covered this. They`re doing it now because there`s, you know, there
is video and there is Facebook and twitter, and people can root around
that, but as an organizing tool for changing criminal justice policy, I`m
not sure it is as effective. Because you`re going to take some fence
sitters on this and say, hey wait, I want to change the system but you just
call me a racist.
ROBINSON: Hold on. What they will say is we have a set of laws, drug
laws, on the books that are not enforced fairly. The laws in New York
around marijuana are not enforced fairly. So us just to getting new set of
laws or this kind of current movement we had around, you know, on loosening
up the drug laws around the country, will it actually help black folks if
we don`t build power?
You know, because the laws on the books in New York don`t. Because we
don`t have - because black folks do not yet have the type of power in this
system to hold law enforcement, to hold prosecutors to actually follow the
law. And so the fact of the matter is, a whole new set of laws, if people
aren`t actually valued and don`t have political power, will not be enforced
WELCH: I think not just about the law, it is about the enforcement.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still to come this morning, understanding Atticus, but is my
first letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: At this point in the 2016 election process, a few
assumptions sometimes explicit and other times unspoken are already shaking
the way we understand it. Assumptions like Hillary Clinton will be the
democratic nominee or the GOP primary field is wide open and unpredictable
or Donald Trump is the most outrageous Republican running for president.
After all, Trump has dominated attention with both outrage and generally
frustrated anyone else trying to get a little shine on the Republican stage
Just yesterday he was at it again taking on senator and former prisoner of
war John McCain. Trump had this to say at the family leadership summit in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s not a war hero. He`s a war
hero because he was captured. I like people who weren`t captured, OK? I
hate to tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With juicy madness like that available at every turn, it
isn`t surprising that the media can`t help but keep the cameras trained on
But here in MHP, we are not buying the conventional wisdom and we are not
conceding that Trump is the most outrageous candidate seeking to represent
the Republicans next fall which is my letter of the week is going to
Wisconsin`s governor Scott Walker.
Dear Scott Walker, it`s me, Melissa. Just dropping a little note to say we
see you. No, I`m not just talking about the fact we saw you on Monday when
you stood and walk a show to Wisconsin and declared your candidacy. We see
and hear your particular form of outrageousness despite all the sound and
fury surrounding your bombastic opponent, Mr. Trump. We saw you when you
made your first post-campaign-announcing trip not to Iowa or New Hampshire
where voters weigh in early, but to Las Vegas whether may not be any first
in the nation votes, but where your long time campaign underwriter, casino
magnet Sheldon Adelson resides.
We also heard you when you opposed that unanimous choice of the Boy Scout
executive committee to drop the ban on openly gay scout leaders. Your
reason? Because the previous membership policy quote protected children,
an advance to scout values.
After realizing that it seems you think children need protection from gay
men, you tried to clarify your position by saying that you meant that the
policy protected kids from the debate over the ban.
OK, but we`re not buying that particular backpedal given that you support a
constitutional amendment to allow states to define marriages as between a
man and a woman even though the Supreme Court has clearly established
marriage equality as the law of the land. Yes, we saw you when we did
We also notice when you dramatically shifted on abortion, and decided to
support a ban on termination after 20 weeks in your state, including a
felony offense for doctors to perform abortions past that stage with no
exemptions for rape or incest.
And we certainly heard you when you claimed to be a fighter and cited your
distant and extreme decision to all but end collective bargaining for
public employee unions, a move that Milwaukee journal sentinel said went
far beyond what was necessary and cleaved the state in two.
You see what the people want is someone who fights for the people, not
someone who fights the people! So yes, Governor Walker, for the moment Mr.
Trump is providing a largely impenetrable smokescreen of political kabuki
theater, but even through the Donald haze, we can see you. And we know
that no matter what the conventional wisdom says, it may be you, you who is
the most outrageous candidate in the race. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this week, Harper publishing released the second
novel written by “to kill a mockingbird” author Harper Lee. “Go set a
Watch man” immediately left at the top of the best-seller lists despite
mixed reviews. There`s been a controversy surround the book for years,
whether or not Lee ever wanted it published or if it was actually intended
as a sequel. Now, that it is finally in the hands of readers, the debate
has centered around the beloved character of Atticus Finch. In “to kill a
mocking bird,” Atticus is the hero. White lawyer, raising his two children
as a single father who fight to free a black man wrongly accused of rape.
Here is Atticus as portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get along a lot better with all kind of folks. You
never really understand a person until you consider things from his point
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To climb inside of his skin and walk around in ti.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the new book said about 20 years after mockingbird, scout
returned home to discover her father who is not who he thought he was.
He`s racist. But Atticus is pro-segregation, fighting the NAACP, even
telling scout now known Jean Lewis (ph) quote “the Negros down here are
still in their childhood as people.
Still with me, Judith Browne Dianis and Matt Welch, Cherrell Brown and
joining is Wai Chee Dimock, professor of English and American studies at
What do you think of the new book?
WAI CHEE DIMOCK, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: You know, I actually liked
the new book. I think it`s very realistic. I think it is a less on
admirable of Atticus, but it is very understandable portrait of somebody
who has been deeply conditioned by his co-chair. You know, he has always
been in that town. And it is a tough in which everyone thinks that
segregation is a good thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the current sort of (INAUDIBLE), that`s a lot. But what
it is this is really, and as I read it, I felt the same way that goes to
the watchman is actually kind of a rough draft of “to kill a mocking bird”
in the sense that it was the first text that it is her editor – Harper
Lee`s editor encouraging her after reading this to go and retell this story
in a different way. Is that how you read it?
DIMOCK: You know, it doesn`t really feel like a first novel or first
draft. So, I mean, I think that it could have been what we are seeing.
The skeleton of the first draft might have been there. And we see some
passages that really reproduce verbatim in “to kill a mockingbird.” So,
you know, it must have been a draft at some point, but she must have gone
back to it and done significant revisions. I mean, there are just so many
places where there is a clear assumption that we`ve already read this book.
HARRIS-PERRY: (INAUDIBLE) Pop out of the book for a moment into the real
world where the people were having all the feelings about the fictional
white hero and what he actually is or not. And I just – really? Like so
in the midst of black lives matter, we are all stressed out whether Atticus
Finch might actually have been racist.
BROWN: It is like the post - he is the poster boy for well into white
people. He is the Santa Claus where that not all white people thought,
right? And I think that when they see that this guy, Atticus Finch, I
think the movie version so they really like respond to. He`s altruistic
person who somehow (INAUDIBLE) white man, a white supremacy, you did not
condition them anyway. I think that they were like that (INAUDIBLE) with
the grandparent so they are great on, maybe, they were the president who
back the dead and they`re having a really difficult time accepting that he
was like probably most the white man in George in the 30s.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I mean, for me, I actually really like go to the
watchman because it goes back to Atticus. And I mean, look, Harper Lee in
“to kill a mockingbird,” everybody reads it, everybody have all the
feelings, but it still must resolved itself in the end with the death of
Tom, right? I just - I don`t want to miss that Finch doesn`t win, that in
fact Tom is there, goes to the jail and - I`m just reading here form the
end of chapter 24, so the guards call him to stop, they fire a few shots in
the air, then to kill. They got him just as he got over the fence.
They`re talking about Tom trying to escape. They said if he had two good
arms, he would have made it over, he was moving so fast, 17 bullet holes in
him. They didn`t have to shoot him that much cal. I want you to come with
me to help tell Helen. And they go to tell his wife.
I mean, I`m sorry. Even Harper Lee couldn`t imagine any ending other than
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The black man gets killed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Atticus response to this, we were going to win on
appeal, and if only he had not been so childlike and had to run away. I
mean, excuse me, yes, all of that is there in Atticus in the text in the
chili. There is a possibility of, like, a racial paternalism.
WELCH: Of course it`s paternalistic. I mean, Atticus Finch one point,
though, I think was a great and necessary character for the time. We
needed to have someone that everyone, especially on the white side of the
aisle, could aspire to. You needed to create a nobility around someone who
actually took individual rights so seriously that it can even be applied to
black people at that time. That was important back then, but then it has
become unnecessary arc-type (ph). In the meantime, how many civil rights
movies have we watched that somehow the hero was a white dude?
HARRIS-PERRY: All of them.
WELCH: It was important in 1970. It was ridiculous in 1988 when
“Mississippi Burning” was made. The director said he couldn`t have made it
otherwise at the time. Luckily, we live now. I think now in a time when
that`s not necessary anymore, but the fact is I think in the fullness of
humanity, people were flawed. There are very few people who have that kind
of rectitude on any –
HARRIS-PERRY: And wouldn`t we prefer that you can nonetheless be a
powerful part of justice despite your imperfection?
WELCH: Overcoming your imperfections. And this happens in civil rights,
too. I mean, the heroes from Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, these
were flawed people. That makes me like them more. They overcame their
flaw in society.
DIANIS: But that`s not how people want to see Atticus. We love him and
that`s why people are angry. It`s like, you tarnished our good white man,
our good white hero.
DIMOCK: But you know, in a way, I think this is more a novel of our own
time, you know, in the sense that, you know, that (INAUDIBLE), you know,
that`s what you are saying. So I mean, this one, you know, somebody whose
flaw, who believe in the court system believes in an ideal sense of
justice. But at the same time that kind of belief can go hand in hand, you
know, with a belief in segregation equality. So I mean, it`s that
combination, I think, that makes him so human and compelling to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed. Judith Browne Dianis and Matt Welch are going back
in the next hour. And we say thank you to Chee Dimock and to Cherrell
Coming up next, the latest revelations about Bill Cosby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Would you embedded the Medal of Freedom from
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no precedent for
revoking a medal. We don`t have that mechanism. I will say this. If you
give a woman or man for that matter without his or her knowledge a drug and
then have sex with that person without consent, that`s rape. And in this
country, any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama Wednesday responding to a question
from April Ryan (ph), the White House correspondent for American Urban
Radio Networks. And you can tell from how President Obama responded to the
question, he takes the allegation against Bill Cosby seriously, even if he
wasn`t prepare to directly condemn Mr. Cosby publicly. After all, Bill
Cosby has not been charged for the crime. And he has denying past
allegations, allegations that seems to just keep coming.
NBC News has tabulated 36 different allegations against Bill Cosby.
Though, not all of them claim sexual assault.
But a report this morning in the “New York Times” reveals new details from
a 2005 deposition for which Cosby (INAUDIBLE) questions over the course of
NBC`s Kristen Dahlgren joins me now for more.
KRISTEN DAHLGREN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Melissa. Well, this
is the same deposition that we heard just a small part of earlier this
month. Now, the entire deposition some thousand pages is out there full
salacious details and Cosby speaks openly about young women, sex and drugs.
BILL COSBY, ACTOR: And I have heard stories –
DAHLGREN (voice-over): They are Bill Cosby`s owned words describing a
string of sexual encounters in graphic details, claiming he meant to a
young women using his fame and promising career advice as part of his
The document stand from a 2005 case in which Cosby was sued by a woman who
claimed the comedian drugged and sexually assaulted her. In the full
deposition obtained by the “New York Times,” Cosby claimed he and his
accuser were quote playing sex, we are playing, pettings.
Cosby also suggested he understood none verbal signals from what a woman`s
consent. She doesn`t say don`t ever do that again. She doesn`t walk out
with an attitude of a half because I think that I am a pretty decent reader
of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things.
The deposition revealed details from other relationships including an
exchange with the woman whose father died of cancer. Cosby admit using
that information to get close to her. The accuser`s attorney asking, did
you ask her those questions because you wanted to have sexual contact with
her? Cosby, yes.
While there has been much speculation about how much Cosby`s wife, Camille,
really knows, the Times says Cosby described blocking and damaging magazine
article and sending money to one woman through his agent so Mrs. Cosby
wouldn`t find out.
As for accusations of drugging women, Cosby insists Benadryl was the only
medication he gave the accuser in the case. But he has open about
obtaining seven prescriptions for Quaaludes admitting he gave them to women
quote “the same as the person would say have a drink.” Cosby denied using
Quaaludes without their knowledge. But when ask when there one woman was
in the position to consent a sex, he answered, I don`t know.
DAHLGREN: Now, again no charges have been filed against Cosby in
connection with any of these allegations. He and his attorney are
vigorously denied that he is a sexual predator. There has been no comment
from Cosby`s publicist on the latest “New York Times” report, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Kristen Dahlgren.
Coming up, the real life story behind the CEO`s infamous call it a gaffe
over a baby. The author of girl and glass joins me live in studio.
And the moral Mondays movement comes to my neighborhood.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What would you say to those who say you are outside
agitators? You don`t belong here. This isn`t your fight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would just say that this is not just in North
Carolina fight. This is an American fight. This is a national fight. I
would say that anyone who care about their American right should be down
here. Anyone who cares about gay rights, you know, woman`s right, this is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In this past week, the modern day civil rights movement came to the town
where I live and work all week. Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the form
of Moral Mondays. One month after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the heart
of the voting rights act in 2013, North Carolina passed a law with sweeping
voter restrictions. It cut early voting eliminated same day registration
and refused to allow people to vote outside the precincts. Republican
lawmakers in North Carolina said the law would string line elections and
prevent voter fraud. While voting rights advocates to cried the law as a
monster of voter suppression.
Civil rights leaders say the law will disproportionately impact African-
American voters in the state. And in 2012, 28 percent of black voters cast
their ballot in the now eliminated extra seven days of early voting
compared to 17 percent of life voters. Advocates of the law argued the
changes ensure uniformity and fair treatments of the whole voters. Now, a
challenge of the laws playing out in the courtroom. Among the plaintiffs,
93-year-old Rosanell Eaton who participated in Moral Monday protests
fighting the bill before it was passed. And this week on the first day of
court, the Moral Mondays movement was in miles down in Winston-Salem. And
meet Miss Eaton`s daughter there along with civil rights leaders who say
they`re protesting just to get back to where we stood 50 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an extraordinary story, those idea that in the 1930`s
in the 1940`s, with all the Jim Crow was, it could not keep your mother
from voting. But here in the 21st Century, in the second term of the black
president, the state of North Carolina may have passed the state of laws
that could keep your mother from voting.
ARMENTA EATON, DAUGHTER OF ROSANELL EATON: To see the clock turned back
and see that her grandchildren will not even have the same rights that she
ultimately had, then that`s heartbreaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It matters here in North Carolina and in the south
because this was the place where there was so much work than to deny the
DONITA JUDGE, SENIOR LAWYER, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: This monsters voter
suppression bill was actually passed really quickly through the
legislature, and chances are, no, it would not have passed muster, it would
not have been the law of the lands here in North Carolina but for the
decision in Shelby County Alabama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voting matters and the vote matters because those who
keep before us in muster lies at the heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It matters because nothing can change without it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why was it important to have children part of a moment like
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also, they could see what`s going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And be informed and so that they can secure the things
they`re look forward to in their voting age.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`m looking around at the crowd. It is at least this
day, maybe even as much as 75 percent not people of color. White, North
Carolinians mostly here. Is that surprising to you or are you like full of
force, this is everybody`s fight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think definitely with increase in media that
people are more aware now of the issues and so people are getting educated
about the issues, and they want to support people of color.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re living in a time where, you know, I never
thought I would have to worry about these things, these battles were fought
for me. We need to hold onto each other. I`m looking to, my mother`s age,
who were young children during the 1960s and the civil rights amendments,
you know, being able to say that I`m scared, and the people who worked and
fought through that period, and know that they were scared too, that they
persevered through it, and that is something that strengthens me and that
it strengthens I think my generation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am inspired and I am just so thankful that we have
some young people who are willing to pick up the banner and keep moving.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, GREENLEAF CHRISTIAN CHURCH: We`ve mobilized white and
black. White, black, gay, straight, all of us mobilizing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. When you say that this is our Selma, what does that
BARBER: This is our Selma because we are right now fighting to really hold
onto, no, recover -
BARBER: – what we thought was secure 50 years ago. It`s also our Selma
because we have to fight now the same way we did then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s that point right there, that 50 years later, rather
than moving further along that arc, the struggle continues simply to regain
the victories already won.
At the table this morning, Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the civil
rights organization Advancement Project. Matt Welch, editor-in-chief or
Reason Magazine. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change,
the nation`s largest online civil rights organizing tool. Rinku Sen who is
president of the racial justice organization Race Forward. So, Racial
Justice, it`s so hot right now.
I mean, seriously, I must say that on the one hand it was really exciting
to be there in Winston-Salem, watching the city come alive in this
particular way, but it`s also disheartening I guess that it`s over rights,
it`s not something that is like our next step in the movement, it`s this
thing that we`re doing 50 years ago.
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Right. And this
is our Selma. North Carolina is our Selma because there are folks who want
to take us backwards. And it`s much more subtler, but it is the same kind
of mechanisms of trying to make sure that black folks don`t have a voice in
the election system. And so, you know, we`re fighting this and Advancement
Project lawyers, we are present the North Carolina NAACP. But what is
important is that the North Carolina legislature knew what the impact of
this law would be on black voters, and they know that black voters are
important and are the folks who put President Obama over the hunt. And so,
we`ve got a fight and the big problem is, that this law could be the
blueprint for the rest of the country. As we see changing demographics,
there are those who are going to win, want to make sure that people of
color can`t participate.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s push just one more piece here on the legal piece.
I did have that chance to talk with your colleague while we were there.
And this is about a section II case. Right? You`re bringing this under
section II, and this is because, I just want to – so that folks, you know,
they might miss all the various sections of the VRA. VRA still exists,
section 2 was still enforced but the issue was, that there once a formula
that would have require this to be pre-cleared.
HARRIS-PERRY: But once that went away in the Shelby case, now there`s no
requirement for pre-cleared.
DIANIS: Right. Exactly and this law passed right after the Supreme
Court`s decision, and what the North Carolina legislature knew, they kind
of waited, you know, as many states waited to see what was going to happen
and then they knew that they could pass aggressive restrictive legislation
and not have to send it to the Department of Justice. So, that meant that
they could just implement it, and that we`d have to sue them later.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that said, Rinku, when I`m out there, you know, I repass
by one group of young people who are kind of saying – wait a minute, I
thought we had voting rights. Like this sense of, what are you talking
about? What do you mean we`re marching for the right to vote? People
already have the right to vote. And you`re point, you said about being
more subtle, I think there`s also as a result a kind of skepticism, about
whether or not this is actually a racial justice issue or whether or not
this has much to do about nothing.
RINKU SEN, EXEC. DIR. RACE FORWARD: Yes, I think what this moment reminds
us is that this fight stone ends. And that the fight for racial justice is
going to carry on and that we really cannot get off the offensive. That
there`s always going to be backlash, they`re going to be – there`s going
to be back flighting and backlash. And that power doesn`t give up without
a real fight. And so as soon as a movement as successful succeeds, the
next generation does not experience the worst of the abuses that the
previous generations did, and they tend to forget that there`s more to
fight for or that we might even have to defend these particular victories
for decades to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like you saying that the next generation doesn`t
inherit the wins of the previous generation probably just made David Burkes
really depress somewhere because he was, you know, he wrote this piece
about being sort of sad but Tana Hatico (ph) doesn`t believe in the
American dream. Right? Because – but that is certainly even made me a
little bit sad, right? This idea that to fight and have a win. Does it
mean passing it to your children?
SEN: Yes. I mean, I actually think it does mean passing it to your
children, but it also means that your children are going to see it attacked
and are going to have to defend it. And so, we can`t get complacent about
these things. The attack is going to come at weight. I know it`s
depressing. It`s hard to keep going in the face of like, having to fight
the same things over and over again, but we can`t actually move on into the
new stuff that we need to work on without having good defense of the old
stuff we won before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m wondering then in along with pass along these
struggles than there is also in need to pass along some set of tools and
techniques. Some of the things that like about Monday, was, that there was
these protests which makes it for good TV. But there was also the court
case beginning, right? So you have your kind of legal action but there was
also set of teaching, sort of teachings all day which maybe make for a less
good TV, right, the kind people sitting there in a room learning things,
but that kind of three-pronged aspect of direct action, education and legal
RASHAD ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLOR OF CHANGE: I think it`s so
critically important for us to build power in this moment. To be on the
offensive and to understand that what`s going – how we`re attacked is
going to be attacked in many different ways. Right? So, you know, once
the voting rights act pass, and we have it for many years, then we start
getting things like voter ID laws, and other things that popped up – which
are sort of different ways to get at racism, to get at sort of, you know,
getting out the vote.
Then you also have things like Citizens United. Right? Which (INAUDIBLE)
Supreme Court, which allow someone like an art poll, the financial
architect behind what`s happening in North Carolina to be able to use his
money sort of in many different ways. And we say he wouldn`t have been
ever used it, decades ago, to reshape the legislature, to ensure that these
laws get passed. So, in terms of our responsibility to fight and the
strategies that we need to employ, we need to be thinking about how do we
push these things legally but how do we hold corporations and business
leaders and other folks accountable as well?
ROBINSON: The multiple ways that we have to fight and the multiple feels
that we have to fight on.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: There`s one voting rights
thing that gets underplayed off and I think which is, millions of people in
this country cannot vote, because their acts felons. And in states like
Florida which prohibits extra homes in voting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Virginia tons of –
WELCH: Disproportionately affects minorities to a horrific degree that can
be remedied. Right now, we`re in a real criminal justice reform moments in
this country. This past week we saw Barack Obama at a prison, we saw Bill
Clinton apologize for his role in the war on crime. We saw John Boehner
saying, I`m in favor of criminal justice reform. Anything is possible now.
This is all happen because of grassroots` pressure coming from underneath
which is totally important and there`s a bills we need to make sure as part
of the criminal justice reform, that a bill interests by Rand Paul, to re-
enfranchise ex-felons becomes part of that package that will have to
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s like you knew where we were going next. Which is this
idea that racial justice is so hot right now. Well, that broke op-ed on –
yesterday, and I`m telling you, there were some Democrats that did not have
good answers and others that had better answers. What happened when Martin
O`Malley and Bernie Sanders came face to face with the Black Lives Matter
movement is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday at the Netroots Nation, political conference, a
presidential Q&A featuring democratic candidates Martin O`Malley and Bernie
Sanders was interrupted when about 30 Black Lives Matters protesters
entered the event with questions of their own. While O`Malley watched on
the stage with interviewer Jose Vargas, the protesters walked in chanting,
what side are you on? Before participants in the protests took the stage
and was given a microphone to speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIA OSO, BLACK ALLIANCE FOR JUST IMMIGRATION: As a leader of this nation,
will you advance a racial justice agenda that will dismantle but reform,
okay? Not make progress but that will begin to dismantle structural racism
in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: After O`Malley offered answers that, let`s say did not
satisfy the protesters in the audience. He left the stage amid a chorus of
boos after he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every life matters,
and that is why this issue is so important. Black lives matter, white
lives matter, all lives matter.
Black Lives Matter. White Lives Matter. All lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that he said it a second time. The protest continued
on after Bernie Sanders took the stage to the liberal system speech about
job creation and reducing unemployment. I`m sorry, we have just also now
play Martin O`Malley`s interview after the disruption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were booed today when you said white lives
matter. What would be your response to –
O`MALLEY: Actually what I said first was Black Lives Matter and then I
said, white lives matter, all lives matter. And I meant no insensitivity
by that, and I apologize if that`s what I communicated. That was a
mistake. What I intended to say was we`re all in this together, that black
lives do matter and that we have a double standard of justice in this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Mr. O`Malley, just real quick, I think maybe you want to
hear the answer that Mr. Sanders gave, because that was maybe not the right
answer. Let`s listen to Bernie Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Black people are dying
in this country because we have a criminal justice system which is out of
control, because we have a system in which, as I just mentioned, over 50
percent of young African-American kids are unemployed, are out in the
streets, and where we have right now it is estimated that a black male baby
born today stands a one in four chance ending up in the criminal justice
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. Hello, Democratic Party running for presidency when,
as you point out, after American votes are going to be critical, often
SEN: I think that –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Rinku, yes, please. Thank you for saving us.
SEN: So all politicians, whether they are –
SEN: Maybe they are – maybe, I think they matter. Maybe just the white
ones matter, I don`t know. All politicians, including democratic
politicians, green party politicians, politicians who are thought to be
progressive, they need to understand that this generic language of the
“all,” if we all do better, we`ll all do better. That is not going to cut
it here. We`re in a moment where communities of color are organizing,
where they want their issues spoken to very specifically. And this kind of
tone deafness, like we don`t really have to pay attention, we can say white
lives matter, we can say all lives matter, and it`s going to be okay. That
is not going to fly. And I think, you know, Martin O`Malley really
discovered that yesterday and so did Bernie Sanders. And I actually, in
the earlier segment, Matt, I heard you talk about how asserting that Black
Lives Matter might decrease some support among white folks –
ROBINSON: For the reform part.
SEN: Right, for criminal justice reform because now you`re calling me a
racist. I think that`s – it evokes that. So one of the things that
politicians have to be able to do is assert that – it`s the impact of the
decisions that we make that`s most important, and that they have to be
assert a definition of racism that doesn`t always have to have it the
individual and overt and explicit and conscious, that there are things we
do collectively and individually with all good intention, maybe, even, but
that still have terrible racial impacts that cause terrible racial harm,
and we have – it`s like a muscle to talk about these things, and if you
don`t practice it, the muscle is going to die out.
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like you just did the work of exposing the thing that
we were trying to do across the context of the arc of the show so far,
right? Which is really to talk about here you have black bodies in the
case of Sandra Bland, actually a dead young woman in a jail cell. Then you
have people having all the feeling about a fictional white male hero,
right, and this idea about where does racism live? Because the point isn`t
really about whether or not Atticus is racist, whether or not this place,
this space this kind, this nation, we as readers are racist. Whether or
not we can even see if that the main character of this sect isn`t even
Atticus, right? Like our inability to even cope in those weight, and then
connecting that, this set of movement that is trying to engage, as we have
heard there from our protesters, saying, look, we need to dismantle it, not
just us challenge it. Dismantle it. You know, here`s my letter of the
week. Can I do one?
HARRIS-PERRY: Dear Democratic Party. You, too, have a black people
HARRIS-PERRY: Sincerely, Judith Browne Dianis.
DIANIS: It means just because you have a lot of black people who signed up
the Democratic Party doesn`t mean that you get us. Doesn`t mean that you
speak to us. It doesn`t mean that you take us for granted just like the
Republican Party does. And so, and it`s time for the party, for the
Democratic Party and the Republican Party to really get at this point of
like, black people need responses to our issues. We have specific issues
that have to have specific, detailed responses. And if you can`t do it,
then don`t touch this. And I`m venturing to say that just about every one
of these candidates` forums are going to be #shutitdown.
ROBINSON: Yes. I mean –
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, hey, hey, hey. We`re going to shut down for the
commercial but then we`re going to come back to get Judith Browne Dianis to
riled up in the air.
Democrat, you don`t get it either. #Shutitdown, #BlackLivesMatter. #The
refund for that is not white lives matter. More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The issue of racial justice is becoming one of the key
questions confronted the contenders for the presidency. On everything from
voting rights, to sentencing disparities, to economic inequality, activists
have called for recognition of structural inequality, compelling
presidential candidates from both parties to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the responsibility to
say clearly and directly what`s really going on in our country. Because
what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise
people of color for people and young people from one end of our country to
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Something is wrong with the
war and drugs, that we decided to lock people up for five, 10, 15 years for
making mistakes. It`s a mistake, it`s a huge mistakes to be putting people
and locking them up.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot dismiss the
historical less agency of slavery nor its role in causing the problem of
black poverty. And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by
government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a lot from Rick Perry. But President Obama
reminded us in his eulogy for pastor and South Carolina State Senator
Clementa Pinckney, the best of our political leaders have to follow up
their talk with action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Our calling, Clem once said, it is
not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in
which our congregation resides. He embodied the idea that our Christian
faith demands this and not just words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So here we are in a moment when the person who I
liked best was Rick no relation Perry, right? And that`s kind of stunning.
And so I don`t know whether to way to think about that is now racial
justice has become such a discursive tool that it`s not meaningful to hear
a political candidates talk about it, or whether or not as you`ve been
pushing today in part Matt, the right may actually have some legitimate
basis to say, we`re at least as much in this game as a Democratic Party.
WELCH: There are some people, Rick Perry among them, Rand Paul among them,
who had been – I think they have gotten to this question, the broader
question of kind of racial justice through the door of criminal justice
reform and it`s changed them. Rand Paul says this in his latest book. You
know, he first gave a speech at Howard in which he was sort of telling
everybody how the history of civil rights, and he writes in his book, I
messed up, I should have listened. He spent the next two years listening
and enduring work on, then you put forth half a dozen pretty good criminal
justice reform bills. He`s come to the conclusion that there is no way you
can look at how things have disproportionately affect minority communities.
There is no way to look at how people react to and feel to the latest
outrage and not see race in it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. No, no, no, no. On June 9th – that`s not quite what
you said. Listen to Rand Paul on June 9th when he is talking about
criminal justice but is actually sort of unwilling to claim that it is
racism. Do we have that sound? No, we don`t have that sound yet but it`s
going to come to us for a second. Because I do think because it`s a real
thing, right? To say, yes, I recognize this but I`m not quite there in
willing to say that this is racist.
WELCH: I listen to him a lot. I think he probably said something like I
don`t know if this action was a racist action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Yes.
WELCH: I do know that the broader, you know, questions of how this
happened have a complete racial element to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Let`s listen to it real quick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: The arrests in Baltimore 15-to-one, black to white for marijuana
arrests. If you do surveys, the statistics are pretty close between black
and white for marijuana use. I`m not saying it`s racism, many of your
officials are black. So, it`s not racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, that`s what Rinku was just talking about.
ROBINSON: The racism, there`s some that have been boiled down to some
individual action that happens between people, and it`s not structural,
it`s not based on our laws. Unless our politicians and our political
leaders are willing to address that, we`re actually not getting to the
problem. But I`m glad that we`ve got some Republicans talking –
ROBINSON: I am absolutely glad because over and over again the republican
– I mean, the Democratic Party, you know, treats black folks like we are
sort of like, you know, their backup, you know, their side chick at the end
of the day, and they could come to us on election day but not supporters
throughout the other four years. Come into our communities and then blame
us in during midterm elections. Black people didn`t turnout so that`s why
Democrats didn`t win elections when they don`t address black folks` issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me say, addressing issues is not just symbolic, it
has to be substantive. I know that the flag came down and it actually felt
like a good and important thing. But I want to play Reverend Barber. He
said something that was just chilling to me on Monday. I don`t want to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBER: There is a dangerous narrative coming out of Charleston to me, and
that narrative to me is only Black Death matters.
HARRIS-PERRY: Uh-mm. Not black lives –
BARBER: And if nine black lives, what you get with that, is the lowering
of the flag. It should never get up in nine pins. But you won`t be at one
pin to sign on restoring the voting rights act.
BARBER: Reverend Pinckney`s district was protected by the voting rights
BARBER: His district that he was serving when he died is now unprotected.
This is our Selma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIANIS: Yes. I mean, you know, the flag was important, right? But I
mean, the issues behind the flag and what the flag has produced in our
culture and in our history and in our laws, that kind of white resistance
that is continuing to show itself and in fact, is parking up a little bit
because we have backlash against the black president. We have backlash
against changing demographics. That`s what we really have to continue to
work on. And that`s the harder work and that`s the stuff that I want to
hear all of these candidates talking about on the structures.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Judith Browne Dianis, Matt Welch, Rashad
Robinson and to Rinku Sen.
In a program note, we want to make sure that everyone knows that tomorrow
morning, Arizona Senator John McCain will be on “MORNING JOE,” it starts
right here on MSNBC at 6 a.m. This would be the first interview for
Senator McCain since presidential candidate Donald Trump made his
controversial comments about the Republican Party`s former nominee. Only
being war hero because he was captured.
Up next, do you remember the story of the corporate CEO who said he had to
cut employee benefits because of how much a couple of babies cost the
company? We`ll have much more to it. And the parents at the center of it
all join me live.
HARRIS-PERRY: Think about the most challenging, painful and difficult
experience of your life. Can you tap into the memories of trauma, of fear,
of loss? Maybe even of shame and self-blame. Now go a little further and
think of how you might feel just as you see the storm clouds break and the
light at the end of the tunnel appear, and you begin to believe, now I can
take a breath. I think it`s going to be okay. Now, imagine that right at
that fragile moment, your boss, who happens to be a multi-millionaire, a
vast influence, publicly blames your personal trauma for his regressive and
greedy decision that will negatively impact thousands of your co-workers.
Because this is what happened last year when AOL`s Tim Armstrong justified
his decision to slash employee retirement packages by saying on a
companywide conference call, quote, “We had two AOL-ers that had distressed
babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure
those babies were okay in general. So when we had the final decision about
what benefits to cut because of the increased health care costs, we made
the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k)
What followed was a media firestorm, distressed babies generated countless
hot takes, means and tweets. It was the internet`s joke for the week. But
for Deanna Fei and Deanne Peter Goodman, who as a topic imposed employee
worked for Armstrong at that time, this story was not a joke. It was an
invasive and dehumanizing spectacle surrounding their daughter Mila. Mila
was born at 25 weeks weighing one pound and nine ounces, unable to breathe
on her own with skin barely able to hold itself together. And today
through her parent`s struggle and her doctors, and nurses, expert care and
her own breathtaking will to live, she`s a thriving toddler. She`s a
person, not a million-dollar burden. Following the backlash, Armstrong
apologized both to Deanne and Peter personally and to them in public. This
brought a personal struggle to her colleagues and the world, so Deanne
decided she wasn`t going to let Armstrong tell her family`s story, she
would tell it herself in a new book entitled “Girl in Glass.” Those
parents join me next.
HARRIS-PERRY: When Deanna Fei and Peter Goodman brought home their
daughter Mila who spent months in the hospital after being born at just 25
weeks into Deanna`s pregnancy, they thought they were out of the woods.
Then they faced a whole new in Peter`s employer at the time AOL CEO Tim
Armstrong scapegoated their baby for his decision to cut company benefits,
thrusting their family into the spotlight. Deanna took back the narrative,
took to the internet putting a face to the so-called distressed baby name
and she continues their family`s story in “Girl in Glass: How My Distressed
Baby Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO and taught me the Essence of Love,
Heartbreaks and Miracles.”
Joining me now are author Deanna Fei and Peter Goodman, who is now editor-
in-chief of the International Business Times. And of course a regular here
in Nerdland. Deanna, the book really, I mean, it is an intense and I think
in certain ways, it`s almost like three books in one what you`re up to
here, but one of the things I found most powerful was pushing back against
the idea of miracle. Like miracle is in the title, but you push against it
a lot. Can we talk a little bit about that?
DEANNA FEI, AUTHOR, “GIRL IN GLASS”: Yes. The first day that my daughter
was born and we were told that she faced these incredibly terrifying odds,
one-third chance of dying before we could ever bring her home, one-third
chance of surviving with severe disabilities. At the same time on the
other side we were immediately told things like, well, she`ll be a miracle.
You know, you have a miracle child. And I felt from the beginning that I
need it to protect her from this notion that she had to be a miracle child
in order to justify her existence. I felt like I needed to see her for who
she is, whatever her life turned out to be, and that was my job as her
mother. She deserved for me to see the light in her hands in the group of
her hand, and to just be a person. Which is what she was as soon as she
HARRIS-PERRY: That struggle, though, is not without cost, it`s not without
moving forward and back. It`s not like there`s one moment of revelation
and then after that it`s all clear. And Peter, you have written something
about this as well. Part of the story is that at the time that Mila was
born, you had a 13-month-old son –
PETER GOODMAN, MILA`S FATHER: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: – who was doing great, and who, you know, it had been an
uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery and all of that, and you two each
individually and collectively struggling to think about what does life look
like if it`s not a life like this one?
GOODMAN: Yes. I think that`s one of the most powerful things in Deanna`s
book. I mean, this is something that she certainly taught me through their
writing of this book. That part of what we were struggling, there were so
many things he were struggling with. But one of them was the sense that
this is not how it`s supposed to go.
GOODMAN: I mean, you`re in a better place to talk about that, but I will
say our 13-month-old son just saved us because he took us out of all that
and just reminded us that there was more than this vigil we were keeping
inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
HARRIS-PERRY: The book, like I said, is three sort of books. At the end
in that third part you do get to the politics of it, you do get to the idea
that at the moment you`re finally beginning to see a light, at Mila has
come home, you`re start the nursing part of it. I mean, having a child
born to surrogacy after had like a great experience of nursing the first
time and then sort of all the angst that we have just about the notion of
formula, like the amount of shame that a mother can feel about Similac, is
kind of intense. But you get to this point where then your privacy and
your experience becomes outed. And I wonder then, I know an awful lot
about you all now, having read every word of this text. How do you make a
choice to go even further public after having been exposed in this way
rather than just pulling back?
FEI: I definitely had an instinct to cower in shame when all of this
happened. And part of that was my own sense of being a failure somehow and
having not kept my own baby safe. I literally failed to hold onto her. I
think a lot of mothers hit the shame and guilt on themselves when a
pregnancy goes wrong. And I think that`s reflected in society. We tend to
preach that a woman can do everything right to have a perfect, healthy
baby. That was probably what I myself believed when my first child was
HARRIS-PERRY: Look how good I am. Yes.
FEI: Right. Exactly. And that easily becomes a culture of blame when a
baby needs medical attention at the moment of birth, and I think that that
was certainly implicit, an Armstrong`s comments. The fact that he was
zeroed in on mothers and children out of all the items on the corporate
HARRIS-PERRY: The fact is, you were not the employee, Peter you were the
employee. And I wonder in whatever shame or guilt you felt around what
felt like a failed pregnancy at that moment, given that it was your
employer that was revealing your family –
HARRIS-PERRY: – harming them in this way, what that then meant for you?
GOODMAN: I was enraged. I was just really furious. I mean, as you noted
in your opening statement, we were just getting to the point where we were
feeling like, you know, with an extremely premature infant, you never know
what`s coming down the pike, which frankly is how you feel as a parent in
GOODMAN: But we were just feeling like, okay, our daughter is now a kid in
the world, and we`re living our lives, and we`re the parents of two babies
and that`s what we`re doing. And suddenly we`re thrown into the spotlight.
And I mean, my immediate reaction was just rage that my boss would take us
back to this moment. I mean, it really wasn`t until Deanna started writing
and thinking that it became clear to me that she had been carrying around
all this time. This feeling of personal failure which is, you know, deeply
unfair. And for a now CEO of a publicly traded company, somebody who made
$12 million to – I mean, never mind the politics of individual employee
benefits versus CEO pay in an age of inequality, it was actually, you know,
throw my family under the bus and make my wife have to go back and think
about all of this again, it was enraging.
FEI: But what became really clear to me after I came forward is that my
family is fortunate. Our daughter is thriving. Her care was mostly
covered by employer sponsored insurance. I`m grateful for that, but many
people are not as fortunate and I was waking up to an outpouring of
messages from strangers across the country saying, I`ve also been shamed in
the workplace for needing medical care. Many of those people were women
and parents who were targeted for their children`s medical bills. And it
became clear to me that this culture of deciding that certain people are
burdens in society is something that needs to be examined. It`s not just
about me versus Tim Armstrong, it`s not just about distressed babies. I
think we`re risking a lot in the society when we start placing price tags
on children in this way.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that, if you`re coming through that at the end of this,
I think it`s party of why everyone must read it, even if they don`t have a
direct experience with this particular kind of vulnerability, that idea of
what is human worth and how that landed in this moment. And I`ll also just
say, just as a parent, 3:00 in the morning, I couldn`t put it down. I just
curled up around my daughter because I think your point is, Peter is right
that no matter what – once you have a child who`s vulnerable to the world,
it`s like a little part of yourself is out there. And so, I`m just so
appreciative of this text.
Thank you so much to Deanna Fei and Peter Goodman. And up next, using
comedy to response to backlash and bigotry.
HARRIS-PERRY: We begin this hour by talking about the quest for racial
justice understanding. That conversation becomes even more complicated in
the wake of a tragedy that involved the member of a group that is often
targeted for ethnic profiling.
Thursday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, police say a Muslim-American Muhammad
Abdulazeez opened fire at two military centers killing four marines and a
sailor. The family of the shooter has expressed their condolences to the
victims` families. And Muslim leaders in Tennessee condemn the rampage but
the shooting has once again sparked concerns about a backlash against
Muslims. Almost 14 years after 9/11, anti-Muslim bigotry remains a reality
in America. According to an Economist/YouGov Poll, 73 percent of Americans
believe Muslims face a great deal, or a fair amount of discrimination.
This week, some entertainers are doing something to try and challenge that
by challenging negative stereotypes.
Joining me now to talk about their project, Dean Obeidallah, host of Sirius
XM`s “Dean Obeidallah Show,” very well named. And Maysoon Zayid who is
comedian and co-producer of – sorry, Zayid – of the Muslim Funny Fest.
I`m sorry, I totally destroyed the N there.
MAYSOON ZAYID, MUSLIM FUNNY FEST: That`s fine. That`s okay.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s a tough week. We had already sat down, you know,
decided we were going to have this conversation. And then Dean, you know,
here we`re in a situation where we have a shooter who is Muslim, and
therefore, in some ways from a predictable backlash that emerges.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST, “THE DEAN OBEIDALLAH SHOW”: That
happens. It happens anytime. There is an event with a Muslim in this
country. And I think first of all, you know, our thoughts and prayers are
with the families. The five service men who were killed in this, and down
in Chattanooga, in Tennessee, they had an interfaith event. I spoke to the
leaders of a mosque down there on Friday, interfaith event. People with
all faiths standing together as Americans. To more in the loss of these
But the challenge for us and the struggle is that, we will do a festival.
You have great young Muslims raising money in the south for the black
church. And there was $100,000 to rebuild the churches. That all gets
overshadowed by this shooting. This defines us in the minds of our fellow
Americans much more than all the good work we`re doing. And just like
every other minority group, we don`t want to be defined by the worst in our
community. And unfortunately that`s where we stand. So, that`s the comedy
festival is to define who we are through comedy.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is part of the kind of the constant work where you`re
in the circumstance of being dehumanized is to put back humanity, is to
show, you know, humor, and joy. So, you know, again, here in the context
of the tragedy of the shooting and yet to be able to say, look, people
celebrate and they mourn and they`re all of these different things.
ZAYID: Yes. I mean, as much as I don`t want to be associated with someone
who committed such a horrific, horrific action, I am.
ZAYID: I am. And there`s no way I can avoid that. And it`s funny,
because also as a person with a disability, the mental health community is
often under fire.
ZAYID: So normally I would like to throw it on that. But I can`t. And
what we`re trying to do is say, I understand that you hold me responsible
for the actions of 1.6 billion people who share my faith. But I want to
show you who I am, as a Jersey girl, as a Muslim woman who`s onstage doing
comedy. And, you know, Dean often says, people say they don`t know any
Muslims. I think they even know even less Muslim women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right.
ZAYID: So, I want to go out there, and at the same time, the comedians are
ZAYID: And we`re not just Muslims trying to be funny. It is diversity
within our community, from race to devoutness to all different – you`re
going to hear a bunch of different stories if you come out. And I`d love
to get a chance to show the other side.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this, you know, just to throw in Jersey girl, right?
Because I think, you know, all of us, there`s always these frames that we
have for understanding what any title or any identity is. And so would you
like, oh, yes, I`m a Jersey girl. Right?
ZAYID: And I do a joke onstage about how, you know, there`s a live angry
Americans who tweet me and say, go back to your country. And I`m like, my
country is Jersey.
ZAYID: And they understand that we`re different, but we are Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a great one. I mean, seriously, though, Dean, like
at this point, don`t you feel, 14 years after 9/11, are we going to move to
a place where, I mean, of course, you know, obviously for African-
Americans, similar kind of things.
HARRIS-PERRY: Where each and every act is then meant to be representative
of the whole community.
OBEIDALLAH: It is a struggle. And I just try to put things in perspective
for people. Since 9/11 on American soil, there`s been about 40 Americans
killed by Islamic related terrorists. New York Times, two weeks ago it was
reported double the Americans almost have been killed in that same time by
anti-government terrorists, by right-wing terrorists. So we live in a
world where we – it`s really a threat that`s really small. Literally you
have a greater chance of being killed by your refrigerator. That`s
statistically correct. I`m not even making that up. It`s an actual
statistic. But here`s the reality, in the other components that we have
gun violence taking 30 lives every day. But we don`t seem to be as
outraged is when a Muslim does something and it`s – so I`m not saying
don`t be wary of ISIS, al Qaeda. But sadly in American media, always hear
Muslims, ISIS, al-Qaeda and Muslims are under arrest, the three types of
Muslims we see at this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: But does your refrigerator hate freedom.
Thank you to Dean and to Maysoon. That`s our show for today. Thanks to
you at home for watching. And now, it`s time for preview of “WEEKENDS WITH
ALEX WITT.” Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT`: Thank you for the last,
Melissa. I appreciate that.
Well, dramatic and scary moments for a surfer as he is struck by a shark.
You`re going to hear how he managed to escape alive.
The Donald Trump saga. Hear why he says he`s being attacked by his GOP
rivals for comments he made about John McCain.
In his own words, a new report today, the details of what Bill Cosby said
about some of his sexual encounters. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right
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